Minnesota Department of Transportation

511 Travel Info

Hwy 169 Mankato-Twin Cities Intercity Bus Study

Blue Earth County, Nicollet County, Le Sueur County, Scott County, Sibley County (Task 2 of the Hwy 169 mobility study)

About the Study

The Minnesota Department of Transportation, Scott County, and the Metropolitan Council are spearheading the Highway 169 Mobility Study to identify specific opportunities for transportation improvements along the corridor. This study has also been a priority of the U.S. Highway 169 Corridor Coalition.

Study Purpose and Scope

  • Identify potential Highway 169 intercity service travel markets, needs and opportunities
  • Develop intercity bus service options, including short and long term recommendations

Findings

Need improved regional connections  

A number of prominent regional destinations for commerce, services, and activities exist throughout the Highway 169 corridor. Additional travel options beyond the use of a personal vehicle are necessary to enable residents’ convenient access to these destinations for employment, social and recreational activities, shopping, and health and human services. For example, Mankato residents seek better connections to Minneapolis and St. Paul, the MSP International Airport, Mall of America, and the Twin Cities’ southwest suburbs, as well as northern Scott County. Moreover, there is a need for improved access to the resources and amenities located in the Mankato area and throughout the corridor, including the campuses of Minnesota State University, Mankato and Gustavus Adolphus College, the Mayo Clinic Health System, and large employers such as Cambria.

Need expanded travel options

Roughly 20 percent of all survey respondents do not have access to a vehicle. Among the general population surveyed, 38 percent of households with less than $20,000 in annual earnings, and 13 percent of households with $20,000-$50,000 in annual earnings do not have access to a vehicle. Given that in rural and small urban areas, some people need to travel long distances to access critical services, limited access to a vehicle may prohibit a household’s ability to access basic needs and services, employment opportunities, and social and cultural events. 

Need service that is frequent, affordable & connected to other transit services

Current intercity bus service between Mankato and the Twin Cities does not meet the needs of many in the surrounding communities. Stakeholder outreach indicates that targeted service frequency improvements would result in greater patronage among both dependent and choice riders. The cost of existing intercity bus service impacts the travel mode and destination choice of residents in the corridor.
It is important that intercity bus service be connected to other forms of transportation, including public transit in the Twin Cities. Expanded intercity bus service must be coordinated with connecting transit services to ensure ease of use. Notably, there needs to be a system of fare reciprocity to simplify the process of transferring and making first and last mile connections.   

Goals

1: Improve access to local and regional destinations, activity centers, and employment concentrations

  • Connect the Mankato area to jobs, services, and major destinations in northern Scott and southern Hennepin counties, including Mystic Lake Casino, the Amazon Fulfillment Center in Shakopee, the Mall of America, MSP International Airport, and downtown Minneapolis
  • Provide a reliable intercity bus option that serves major destinations on the Hwy 169 corridor, including Minnesota State University, Mankato and Gustavus Adolphus College, and large employers in Le Sueur

2: Provide better mobility in the corridor for those with limited access to vehicles

  • Service options effectively serve zero-vehicle households, including students, seniors, low income, and foreign born populations
  • Link rural residents with regional social service providers, including the Mayo Clinic Health System, St. Peter Regional Treatment Center, and Veterans Affairs Services  

3: Improve the attractiveness of intercity bus to serve more people in the corridor

  • Provide customers an affordable intercity bus service
  • Ensure service is frequent, and coordinated at major destinations
  • Obtain buy-in and develop marketing partnerships with higher education, social service, and business

4: Prioritize service to existing transit-supportive areas

  • Provide interline connections to existing transit services across a variety of modes throughout the corridor, including those in Mankato and the Twin Cities
  • Coordinate transfers and provide fare reciprocity where possible

5: Provide governance and funding structure aligned with current and future needs

  • Explore independent oversight: joint powers agreement and/or MnDOT oversight
  • Investigate opportunities to subsidize existing service
  • Pursue local funding options
  • Ensure solutions align with previous and ongoing studies

Corridor Stops & Service Options

  • Mankato – St. Peter – Le Sueur – Belle Plaine – Jordan – Shakopee (Marschall Road Station)
  • Option 1: Weekday Only Service: 6 trips each direction
  • Option 2: Weekday + Weekend Service: Weekdays – 6 trips each direction, Weekends – 3 trips each direction
  • No service on holidays

Next Steps

  • Short Term: Mankato Land to Air has been awarded new 2017 Intercity Bus service route:
    • Along US Highway 169 Corridor between Mankato and Minneapolis featuring 2 trips each way daily.
    • Timeline is to start this project during first or second quarter in 2017
  • Create a Transit Advisory Committee to continue the discussion on expanding service

Project Management Team

A project management team will provide oversight of project activities. Members include:

  • MnDOT Office of Transit
  • MnDOT District 7
  • Mankato Transit
  • Minnesota State University at Mankato
  • City of Saint Peter
  • Scott County
  • Metropolitan Council

Stakeholder Working Group

Representatives from cities, counties, planning organizations, transit providers, colleges, business and economic development, and human services

Background/Survey results:

MnDOT asked for feedback on interest in, and the need for, intercity bus service between Mankato and the Twin Cities. Thank you to the nearly 2,000 respondents who took the Highway 169 Intercity Bus Survey! We appreciate your feedback, which helped the project team make decisions about transit service. There was a good cross-section of respondents' annual household income, age, race/ethnicity and geographic location.

Key Survey Findings

  • Over 86 percent of survey respondents make connections between Mankato and the Twin Cities via Highway 169
  • Majority of respondents (65%) currently use their personal car for this connection, 13% use bus service, and 6% carpool
  • Main trip purpose is Social/Recreation/Events, followed by Shopping and Work
  • Forty two percent of the respondents have used the existing bus connection and a majority of these said they would use a bus connection more if the fares were lower and buses ran more often
  • Of those who said they haven’t used the existing bus connection, most said they did not know about this service followed by bus fares are too expensive
  • Majority of respondents want convenient connections to public transportation (bus, light rail, etc.) at their final destination

Background of overall feasibility study

The Highway 169 Mobility Study is made up of two tasks. Regional transportation plans identified Highway 169 between Highway 41 and Highway 55 as an ideal corridor for transit and mobility improvements (Hwy 169 Mobility Study - Task 1). Moreover, statewide plans and community leaders have noted the importance of the Highway 169 Corridor between Mankato and the Twin Cities as a critical link for educational institutions, businesses, and interregional freight and passenger transportation (Task 2).

Purpose and scope of overall study

The results of the study is being used to determine whether to advance specific transitway and highway projects into the environmental/pre-design process, add specific improvements to projects that are already programmed, or get improvements on the shelf should additional funding become available in the future. The study also evaluated the feasibility of intercity bus service on Highway 169.

Task 2 - Mankato to Twin Cities

The focus of this website will be Task 2. Task 2 will analyze bus connections and study the potential for expanded Intercity Bus Service along the Highway 169 corridor between Mankato and the Twin Cities.

This task focused on identifying potential Highway 169 intercity service travel markets, needs, and opportunities. Service options, along with short and long term recommendations, will be developed. Both tasks actively engaged stakeholders and the public throughout the process.